Skip to main content

Full text of "My country and my people"

See other formats

THE    ART    OF    LIVING                    311
that deserves special attention. The principle of harmony with nature is carried further, for in the Chinese conception the house and garden are not separate, but are parts of an organic whole, as evidenced in the phrase yuancheh^ or "garden-home." A house and a garden can never become an organic whole so long as we have a square building, surrounded by a mown tennis lawn. The word for "garden" here does not suggest a lawn and geometric flower-beds, but a patch of earth where one can plant vegetables and fruits and sit under the shade of .trees. The Chinese conception of the home requires that the home, with a well, a poultry yard, and a few date trees, must be able to arrange itself commodiously in space. And given commodious space, in ancient China as in all rural civilizations, the house itself dwindles to a comparatively less important position in the general scheme of the home garden.
Human civilization has changed so much that space is something that the average man cannot own and cannot have. We have gone so far that a man is entirely complacent when he owns a mow of civilized lawn, in the midst of which he succeeds in digging a five-foot pond to keep his goldfish and making a mound that would not take ants five minutes to crawl to,the top. This has changed entirely our conception of the home. There is no more poultry yard, no well and no place where one's children can catch crickets and get comfortably dirty. Instead, our home becomes physically like a pigeon's house called an "apartment," with a combination of buttons, switches, cabinets, rubber mats, keyholes, wires and burglar-alarms which we call a home. There are no attics, no dirt and no spiders. Our perversion of the idea of a home has gone so far that some Western people are even proud of the fact that they sleep on a bed which is the back of a daytime sofa. They show it to their friends and marvel at modern technological civilization. The modern spiritual home is broken up because the physical home has disappeared, as Edward Sapir pointed out. People move into a three-room flat and then wonder why they can never keep their children at home.
The average poor Chinese in the country has more space of his ^wn than a New York professor. But there are Chinese living in cities as well, and not all of them own huge gardens.